GREENSBORO, N.C. — Georgia brought back much more from Notre Dame than a 1-point football victory last fall.
Josh Brooks, the Bulldogs’ deputy athletic director for operations, gave the UGA Athletic Association a slide-show presentation of additional improvements beyond the multi-million dollar West End enhancements coming to Sanford Stadium this fall. And Brooks credited Georgia’s experience playing the Fighting Irish in South Bend for several of the concepts being implemented.
One has been the advent of the Silver Dawgs, a group UGA-associated retirees who will serve as home-game weekend hosts this fall. Based on Notre Dame’s “Usher Corps” that demonstrated tremendous hospitality for visiting Bulldogs fans last fall, the group had a “very successful” trial run at the G-Day Game in April.
The latest idea, though, will manifest itself in aesthetic improvements at the Sanford Stadium this season. In an effort celebrate Georgia’s rich history in football, the Bulldogs will utilize new paint and cutting-edge graphics to bring life to areas of the stadium previously adorned only in “drab battleship gray.”
“We witnessed a lot of things at Notre Dame last fall about how they celebrate their history,” Brooks told the board. “That got us to thinking about how we could celebrate our history and also warm up the stadium at the same time. So we’re going to try to dress up some of those concrete, gray areas we have.”
Brooks showed a huge graphic of Herschel Walker running the football with an inscription of Larry Munson’s famous words “My God He’s a Freshman.” That artwork will be placed on one wall on the corner of the South side concourse. There also will be painted likenesses of players in full uniforms representative of their respective decades on support posts in the Gate 6 entrance area off East Campus Road. The covers of team programs for the corresponding year of every Georgia team in history will be painted on support columns on Reed Plaza.
That’s just one small project among numerous substantial projects on which Brooks updated the board. Another was the $63 million construction project at Sanford Stadium, which will add a new locker room and recruiting lounge behind the West End grandstands. Another is a proposed $23 million renovation and construction project that would add six indoor courts to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. There also are recently completed expansion projects for the Boyd Center for men’s and women’s golf, the equestrian center and Stegeman Coliseum.
UGA President Jere Morehead and athletic director Greg McGarity lauded the Georgia people for stepping up with donations to fund these projects. McGarity said the Bulldogs already have received $71 million in pledges — mostly coming from members of the relatively new Magill Society — toward the $93 million in football projects.
“There’s a strong commitment by our supporters of the football program, but winning helps,” Morehead said after the first of two days of meetings with the board. “… But keep in mind, we’ve still got to collect on all of those pledges. We need people to pay up.”
Of all the projects discussed Thursday, none included the expansion of Georgia’s weight room for football. In meetings all over the South since the end of Georgia’s SEC Championship football season, coach Kirby Smart has been telling donors of the Bulldogs’ facility improvement needs in that area.
McGarity acknowledged that it was on Smart’s wish list, but said UGA is taking a prioritized approach to projects.
“We have to finish the West End first,” McGarity said. “We feel good about what we’re doing. These things take time. We want to plan it the right way.”
Added Morehead: “I think it’s important to keep things in context. Look where we were just five years ago. We’re in an extraordinarily competitive position at this point. I think our No. 1-ranked recruiting class demonstrates that it’s working.”
Another improvement that UGA fans will notice at Sanford Stadium this fall will be the addition of 12 suites on field level of the East End. That’s where the Bulldogs used to enter the field from their game-day locker room underneath the grandstands. The marble statue of the Uga mascot will be moved to the northwest corner of the stadium to accommodate the change.
All and all, there will be a brighter, more colorful and historic feel to Sanford Stadium in the fall.
“You’re always trying to learn from what others do, and I think we learned a lot from Notre Dame,” Morehead said. “We took a victory away and I think that really propelled last year’s season of success. But we appreciated their warm hospitality before the game and during the game and after the game.”
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